Five New Malware Variants Discovered Every Second


Security researchers have added more than 115 million malware samples to their databases so far this year, with Windows viruses making a comeback

Researchers discovered an average four to five new malware variants every second over the past year and recorded a surprising comeback of reproducing Windows-based viruses, according to a new study.

The figures, released by IT security firm AV-Test, also found that more than 99 percent of mobile malware targeted the Android platform, with mobile samples growing to more than 16 million from “just a handful” in 2013.


Profit motive

The findings underscore the business-oriented nature of malicious computer and mobile code, according to the firm.

“In addition to ever more elaborate malware, in the area of ransomware, for example, the sheer mass of malware being churned out continuously underscores the purely profit-oriented efforts of professionally organised online criminals,” the company stated. “Business is the main impetus in the development of new Internet threats for all existing device platforms.”

The company has added more than 115 million malware samples to its database so far this year, or four to five new additions per second.

Worms made up more than one-third of Windows malware in 2015, followed by viruses and Trojans, which include banking malware and ransomware, but worms declined this year, with viruses increasing by 19 percent.

The figures were a surprise, as viruses were thought to have been on the decline, AV-Test said.

Worms and viruses both reproduce themselves on infected systems in order to attack other computers, with viruses attaching themselves to and modifying other programs and worms operating independently.

Trojans don’t reproduce, with each instance only attempting to carry out a single infection, although that infection may spread across a number of networked systems, as is sometimes the case in ransomware attacks.

Mobile attacks

Mobile Android malware has developed from almost nothing three years ago to now include all the same types of attacks found affecting Windows software, including viruses, worms, malicious scripts, backdoors and Trojans, the study found.

Researchers said the development activity reflects the broad distribution of the platform and the relative ease of infecting clients in comparison with Apple’s tightly closed iPhone software distribution system.

“The malware situation for Android devices is increasingly moving in the direction of Windows PCs,” AV-Test stated. “This is no surprise, as practically every application, from email to online banking, which just a few years ago had to be completed on a PC, now conveniently functions on a mobile device via corresponding apps, from anywhere and anytime.”

Specialised Android Trojans seem currently to be an “especially lucrative” form of attack, the study found. Nearly all the mobile malware found by the company targeted Android, with iPhone malware described as “negligible”.

AV-Test said mobile and desktop users can protect themselves with security products, which they said are generally keeping pace with malware development in an “ever-accelerating game of cat and mouse”.

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